We’d like you to meet Nyssa, whose human is Geoff, our practice manager. Nyssa recently had an unfortunate accident that required urgent veterinary attention, as she had broken a tooth. Fortunately for her, the Strand Vets team were ready to swing into action…
At 13 months old, Nyssa is “supposed to be an indoor cat, but she is a rebel and likes to go wandering and exploring”. Unfortunately, one day recently she wandered a bit far and came to grief, as Geoff explains. “She came back one evening with a strange looking bump on her chin.” Geoff had one of our vets examine her only to discover she was missing her front canine tooth. She wasn’t particularly bothered and didn’t seem sore, so it would have been very easy to think everything was ok. On exam, she was very wriggly though so they couldn’t fully assess her mouth, but they could see she definitely needed to be booked in for a dental for that missing tooth.
The tooth that Nyssa had broken was her upper right canine, also known as “eye teeth” because their roots are so long. An injury to the visible part (or “crown”) of the tooth often results in cracks that run down deep into the socket. In these cases the remaining tooth root will be very painful, and can quickly get infected.
She was a really good example of why you can’t gauge how serious a tooth problem is just by looking at the patient – especially in braver cats like Nyssa! Like most cats (and dogs), examining her mouth fully while awake wasn’t really an option. So, we admitted her to the clinic the next day for an anaesthetic and once she was fast asleep we were able to get a proper look at the area.
As you can see, the canine tooth was fractured just above the gum line, leaving a sharp and jagged edge. We could see that her other teeth were healthy and clean – well done Geoff! – so with no plaque, tartar or gingivitis, it was only the front teeth that we were concerned about. However, we still didn’t know how far the injury extended, if any of her other teeth might have been affected, or if there were any complications like cracks further towards the root.
This is where our dental X-ray system is so useful. With this great bit of kit (one of only two on the Island), we were able to get a really clear picture of her jaw and all the surrounding teeth.
Nyssa’s experience really has brought home to all of us how important it is to be able to see what’s happening under the gum line. While our vets can make a pretty good guess if there is infection, plaque and tartar, a good guess can’t tell us if the roots are healthy. Without this strange speed gun looking thing, we would have no way of getting this full picture and any injuries below the gum line would be missed, potentially leaving an animal in pain. To fix a broken arm you need to see what’s happening underneath the surface, and this is the same for teeth!
This is an important part of our ethos at Strand Vets, we always try to make sure that we have the best equipment available. This does come at a cost and it’s not something that all veterinary practices are able to do but at Strand Vets we are willing to invest wherever possible so that we are always able do the best job for our patients. We know veterinary treatment isn’t cheap in the first place, but we believe this type of investment is very much worth it and part of our job too.
Although the canine tooth had been broken off exposing the pulp (the nerve or sensitive living tissue in the centre), the root wasn’t cracked and there was no infection. We could also see that the other teeth weren’t affected. Great news! So, to relieve the pain and prevent future infections we had to remove the root.
To keep her comfy when she woke up, we used a local anaesthetic as well, and then sewed up the socket to prevent food getting impacted and making her uncomfortable.
Once she woke up, Nyssa went home with painkillers and Geoff was under strict instructions to make a fuss of her and offer her nice soft food! In fact, as he pointed out to us at her post-op check, “She was fine after all of this and pretty much straight back to adventuring.”
This is an example of how dental care isn’t just about keeping teeth clean: Geoff’s done a great job with Nyssa so far (keep it up!), but even with good preventative care, accidents do happen. However – because her mouth was otherwise healthy, it meant that Nyssa’s surgery was straightforward, and she made a great recovery without complications. If her mouth had already been infected, with plaque and tartar and gingivitis, the procedure would have been much more complex, more costly and there would have been a much higher chance of problems afterwards.
One final takeaway is how important insurance can be: veterinary treatment can be expensive, especially for a longer and more complex dental procedure like this. While Geoff would have found the money somewhere for Nyssa, having pet insurance meant that he didn’t have to worry about it, and when costs aren’t such a limiting factor we can just focus on doing our job in the best possible way.